A few weeks ago, I finished the last of two biblical training courses that I took this spring at YWAM Montana Lakeside. The first course was the Old Testament Studies Seminar, and the second was the Church History Seminar. Both of these courses were absolutely fantastic, and I learned a lot about God, his Word, and myself. I want to share a bit of my journey with you. These are just a few of the practical fruits of spending an entire season studying theology.
A Voice in the Chorus
For years I struggled with not knowing what to do with my voice. Sometimes I wouldn’t speak at all (literally) or I would speak too loudly (not literally, but by believing my opinion mattered the most). These courses showed me a new way to understand the impact of my voice, and where it fits in the context of the body of Christ.
The Old Testament and church history are both filled with dynamic and vibrant characters, whose voices echo through the centuries to us and inspire us in our faith. When you first approach these subjects, you can begin to feel overwhelmed. You might ask yourself, “how could I ever add anything to what’s already been said by the heroes of our faith? People like Moses, Isaiah, Ignatius, and Augustines. Where do I fit in?” The question I struggled with was, “what value does my voice have in relation to those who laid the groundwork for what I believe? Who am I to raise my voice?”
The voices in the chorus are just as important as the one singing the solo.
After studying the Old Testament and church history in more detail and spending time with these influential characters, I realized that for every huge, timeless voice in our history, there are hundreds of ordinary people that God used alongside the giants to accomplish His will. For all the dominant voices that came out of the church councils, the councils themselves were made up of bishops whose names time has forgotten, but their votes counted the same as anyone else’s. These people shared in being guided by the same Spirit as those whom we remember. Their voice isn’t heard up front, but it can be clearly heard in the background chorus of the body of Christ. It’s here that I found meaning for my studies. Sometimes we approach the study of history or theology as a means to increase our own voice on a specific subject. This was the main source of value that I saw in studying theology. Now I see that the voices in the chorus are just as important as the one singing the solo. If my contribution to the church is being a backing voice, then I can happily rest in obscurity.
A Man of Little Understanding
Something that kept coming up over and over in my work was how very little humanity actually knows about anything. I mistakenly thought that if I studied enough I would reach the point where I would know ‘sufficiently’ enough to be called an expert. I’ve begun to realize that this is an error, because of the endless nature of God’s character, and the infinitely surprising ways that he chooses to act in our lives and in the universe. Compared to who God is, our digging to understand Him has yet to scratch the surface. We haven’t even approached the surface. This isn’t to say that the effort isn’t worth it, because it absolutely is. In order to be effective in our studies, it’s worth remembering just how infinite God is. We need to be humbled by his character to the point where we are dumbfounded by just how incredible God is. This will drive us to want to know Him more, which will make our studies more rich and vibrant. Scholastics isn’t a dry field as long as we go outside every now and then to experience the glory of God raining down on us from every direction.
I know almost nothing, but God has called me to try and learn
Over and over and over again I came to the realization that humanity, in general, is pretty stupid. I don’t say this to mock God’s creation or to insinuate that humanity is incapable of getting it right every now and then… but we screw things up a lot. There is pretty much no conceivable thing or scenario that humanity hasn’t screwed up at some point in history. Think about that! We even screw up while doing things that should be easy. For example, this spring I walked into a tree, and managed to pour coffee down my own back. If I can drop the ball while doing something as simple as walking, it’s not surprising to see people make a mess of theology throughout history. Sometimes it’s shocking to realize how thoroughly we screw things up, but it really shouldn’t be that surprising. This should humble us and make us thankful for God and his grace, and how he will never abandon us despite how vigorously we sometimes toss him aside. I know almost nothing, but God has called me to try and learn. Despite how often I screw up, God continues to guide me onward toward the prize.
For the Love of the Church
This information I’ve acquired isn’t just for my own knowledge and pride.
One of the biggest takeaways for me from this time of study, was realizing that all of this information I’ve acquired isn’t just for my own knowledge and pride. It should be used to build up the church. I may not be able to speak directly to people about the specifics of what I’ve learned. Much of it would be boring or hard to understand without context. However, I can use the examples of the people from throughout the Old Testament and church history who lived their lives for God. Those who did what it took to bring his truth into the world, those who fought to be able to live the gospel. These are the ideas I can take back to my church, to encourage the body to press onward into God, to press into what he has called them to do.
I’m supposed to love the church in the same ways that the heroes of our faith loved God and his people. I’m able to lay down my personal thoughts and theology for the benefit of the church: to strive for unity. When necessary, standing up to challenge and correct false teaching. Loving the church doesn’t mean stepping aside and letting it be overrun by false teaching. It does, however, mean being a good steward with the knowledge I have been entrusted with. I need to use discretion to know when it’s time to teach, and when it’s time to listen. To again join the chorus of the body, loving God together, united in laying down our lives for Him and for the body. We are called to be imitators of Christ who laid down his life for his friends.